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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Things I Noticed

Interesting the things that emerge as notable sometimes. Specifically yesterday as I ran my fastest 5 miles ever - topping my previous record by more than 1 minute.

4.9 miles in 32:57 - or averaging approx. 6:45 per mile.

For me, that is lung-burning, heart-pounding, gut-busting fast.

But past the blaring white noise of this desire-fueled human machine, small focused shafts of surrounding reality flash mutely through the portals and ventilation shafts into the steel gray interior of resolve. The traffic, the sidewalks, trees and asphalt slip past with no impact on my mission. Running fast is all that matters and what does not hinder that mission ceases to exist. Though not entirely.

Wednesday afternoon at 4:34 I started running. Within 3/4 mile I was focused and only narrow splinters of my surroundings interrupted the perpetual systems management monitoring the efficient consumption of energy and means of propulsion.

But I noticed the guy leaning over the window of a friends car and the backup lights of a Ford Expedition 3 parking spaces away. I ran between them. I noted again with relief, for at least the tenth time, that the city had ground down a particularly hairy sidewalk transition.

Some stretches of the route are either completely obscured or blend too seamlessly into past runs for me to be convinced of them happening on Wednesday.

Yet I saw two men standing at the window of Bosco's ordering food, while 3 men stood chatting in my path on the sidewalk. Two stood near the curb while a third faced them, turned slightly my direction and monitored my approach out of the corner of his eye. No one moved but me. I sped up as I breezed between the men ordering burgers and the human bollard.

I noticed that no one was sitting smoking on the bench outside the little salon with windows angled such that I can see myself running in 3 separate panes of glass for a split second each. I tightened up my posture here and noticed to my chagrin that my tan must be fading as the season wanes.

I considered how random is my choice to run clockwise or counterclockwise around the courthouse - the apex of my out-and-back route. I chose clockwise this time, though for no other reason than that I chose at the last minute to go that particular way. I reasoned that I was not so superstitious as to think one direction or the other would guarantee a fast run. I run each direction with no certain regularity or reason. I then reconsidered, and supposed that maybe I was more superstitious than I thought - not being willing to rely on a conscious superstition but rather doubting my ability to overcome such foolishness and thereby leaving the results to the capriciousness of chance. I thus entrusted my fate to a random decision believing chance or fate to be more influential than a force I knew didn't exist. I thus continued to ponder that neither fate nor superstition could protect me from the desire to stop running. I caught myself slowing, recognized the randomness of my oxygen deprived brain, and slipped back into the machine.

Nearly to the crest of my last hill, a young woman smartly dressed in slacks and jacket crossed the road 3 paces ahead of a slouching fellow of her approximate age, struggling as hard to keep his shorts aloft as I was to breath. As I neared them she turned toward me on the sidewalk. The lines of her face and a more clear presentation of her costume revealed they were of the same cohort and no doubt led lives far harder than my own. We shared the same sidewalk, but I suspect our routines shared little else. My run had started off with Matthew West's My Own Little World, and the truth of that song stung me.

As I sit here and write I realize that is what this posting is about. Maybe the title should be "Things I Fail to Notice." Not soon after that encounter I was crowded by an SUV in an intersection and I shot the driver a glare. He dutifully returned the same. I was instantly convicted in my heart; not the pounding pulsing pulmonary muscle dutifully driving me down the hill, but rather that redeemed heart designed to drive compassion and mercy - spectacularly atrophied.

Curious the things that slip past, and more curious may be those things that find a way in. I finished and gave no more thought to backup lights, curbs, or SUV's. I went on with my own little world. One heart grew stronger, and the other may have atrophied just a bit more.

Both must grow stronger, and the effort to achieve that end may require comparable discipline and effort. Alas the daily grind will need to be punctured with more shafts of light than my weekly time trials are, and the training be no less rigorous.